My faulty memory tells me the story of the Tower of Babel went like this: Once upon a time many people got together to construct a tower that would go all the way to Heaven. This cooperative effort went swimmingly until God took notice and was displeased. God foiled the effort by turning one language into many, amongst the workers; unable to communicate with each other, they quickly abandoned their efforts.
I just don’t think anything like the Tower of Babel story happened in real life. Construction workers the world over helped build New York City, and many of them never learned English nor any other language but their own. You don’t need much language to wield a hammer or install a window. I would think the Babel crew would have been frustrated with the weird new situation but would have found comfort in continuing the construction, and meanwhile they would learn the languages of their friends.
But the story has a point: it is hard to unite people if they all have different agendas.
What I have done with this index card is confound simple English by subdividing words into phonetically similar, smaller words. The words (and one crucial phrase) I did this with, and their equivalents, top to bottom and left to right, are
Sacrilege (sack real edge)
Energetic (N urge eh tick)
Sacrosanct (sac rose ankh’d)
Due Process (dupe raw cess)
Malachi (Ma lack ai)
Underplay (un derp lei)
Invested (inn fest Ed)
Bivalve (buy valve)
On the surface this may seem an arbitrary thing to do. But before we hear words we hear syllables; then we unite them into words; then we unite the words with the next words spoken and synthesize meaning by processing all those syllables.
Consider the market names of such drugs as Wellbutrin, Celebrex, Alleve, Claratin. Not hard to see that the drug-makers want you to think that use of the drug will help you get Well, let you Celebrate being alive, with your symptoms Alleviated and your breathing more Clear. (In the case of Wellbutrin, the name proved disastrously wrong.) Why do the drug-makers make up these names? Because it works; people buy into it.
“Words are not magic,” said an English professor of mine, long ago. “They are but crude approximations of Reality.”
But Reality for individuals is whatever they Think it is.